The Fisher King (Hardcover)

By Paule Marshall

Scribner, 9780684872834, 224pp.

Publication Date: October 17, 2000



In 1949, Sonny-Rett Payne, a black jazz pianist, fled New York for Paris to escape both his family's disapproval of his art and the racism that shadowed his career. His spectacular success in Europe and his subsequent death there form the dramatic background of Paule Marshall's gorgeous fifth novel, a moving and revelatory story of jazz, love, family conflict, and the artist's struggles in society.

Decades after Sonny-Rett left, his eight-year-old Parisian grandson is brought to his old Brooklyn neighborhood to attend a memorial concert in Payne's honor. The child's visit reveals the persistent rivalries within the family and the community that drove his grandfather into exile. Will the young boy be a harbinger of change and reconciliation or a pawn in the power struggle of those who now wish to claim him in Sonny-Rett's name?

Marshall, who grew up in Brooklyn and set her first novel there -- the classic "Brown Girl, Brownstones" -- deftly makes the neighborhood itself a protagonist. With characters of astonishing depth and complexity, she chronicles the myths, betrayals, and angers that can alienate people for decades. Yet "The Fisher King" offers hope in the healing and redemptive power of one memorable boy.